By McNeese Assistant SID Pam LaFosse
KATY, Texas-- McNeese State women's basketball team came up big on the defensive end in the final two minutes in their 78-73 Southland Conference Tournament first round win over sixth seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Cowgirls will face second seed Central Arkansas at 1:30 Friday.
The game can be heard live on Cajun Radio (1470 and 1290 AM) and www.CajunRadio.com. A live broadcast stream will be available for free on the Southland Digital Network at Southland.org/watch.
"This was a really tough challenge for us. I'm really proud of the girls and of our fight. To see this toughness at tournament time is so important," said head coach Brooks Donald Williams. "The key to the game was when we made stops in the last two minutes. We go stops when it mattered. We made mistakes but toughed it out. Our defensive effort and toughness were definitely keys in the game," said Williams.
McNeese led 74-73 with 2:44 to play and extended their lead 76-73 on two free throws by Jayln Johnson. The Cowgirls' defense clamped down and forced the Southland Conference's Newcomer of the Year, Jasmine Shaw into a bad shot. On the Cowgirls' next possession and with :47 to play, Allison Baggett missed a jumper but the Cowgirls got the rebound and a new shot clock that allowed them to run more time off the clock. With :42 to play, McNeese's Cecilia Okoye was fouled but missed the front end of a one and one. The Islanders got the rebound and called a timeout.
Down by three with :23 left in the game, Baggett came up with a big block on a Brittany Mbamalu that would have tied the game. Corpus Christi would grab the offensive rebound but the Cowgirls would cause them to turn the ball over with :18 to play. Baggett made two free throws with :16 left to seal the victory.
McNeese will play third seed Central Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The Sugar Bears defeated the Cowgirls 65-50 in Lake Charles on Jan. 30 in the only meeting of the season.
McNeese ended the game with four players scoring in double figures. Baggett led all players with a game high 27 points. Baggett connected on 10 of 25 from the field including five three-pointers. NeTanya Jones and Jayln Johnson both scored 17 and Okoye scored 12. The 17 points by Jones is a season high and she also grabbed a game high nine rebounds. Nine of Johnson's points game from three-point range as she was 3 of 6 from behind the arc.
McNeese was nearly perfect from the free throw line, making 10 of 12 attempts and finished the game with a 49.2 field goal percent, 40.0 three-point field goal percent and an 83.3 free throw percent.